Looking Back: Franklin County’s history June 14th
Take a look back at Franklin County’s history through news and photos that appeared in local newspapers 25, 50, and 100 years ago on June 14th.
25 Years Ago
June 14, 1996 – Friday
“WWII bomber crew members reunite”
Chambersburg – The B-24 bomber crash-landed in Yugoslavia in 1944, and the lucky crew flew home in a borrowed bomber just six hours later.
They glimpsed a world after their “deaths”:
- Stanford Hunt, flight engineer, saw cigarettes were missing from his bunk. When news of his arrival spread, a soldier returned them.
- Charles Trommer, radioman, found his belongings ransacked. A soldier walked over to him. Here are the boots you got in Brazil. I didn’t think you needed them anymore.”
Fliers came and went.
The men who once flew sorties over southern Europe have tripled their lifespans. In their 20s, they braved fighters and flak. Now in their 70s, death again rattles like an unexploded cannon shell in a fuel tank.
Four of the 10 crew members of the B-24 Virgin Sturgeon laughed through their war stories this week in the Chambersburg Holiday Inn.
Trommer, now a retired chemist, flew from Hawaii to Chambersburg, where Hunt lives. Former co-pilot and retired accountant Leslie Amelang came from Louisville, Ky. Evan “Mike” Defabio, nose gunner and retired automobile dealer, drove from Morgantown, W.Va., and Richard Ashby, Amelang’s friend from pilot training school, visited from Lancaster.
Hunt, Trommer, Amelang and Defabio spent less than a year together in 1944, but they did not forget their crew.
Your lives depended on each other, and when you constantly depend on each other, you remember,” Trommer said. “We were more bonded than the others,” said Amelang, who spent years tracking down crew members.
“I wanted to see them. It’s been a big thrill to see them again.”
The group was among the few to escape fatalities. Trommer counted 23 survivors among the original 180 men assigned to the air group in Italy.
“In the first two months of combat we lost replacements of replacements,” Amelang said. “I was becoming a stranger in my own outfit.”
Flying 38 missions in six months, they bombed ball bearing factories and oil refineries as part of the Allied strategy to cripple the Luftwaffe.
Once, their shot-up aircraft was the only one of seven in the formation to return to base. Mechanics repaired the damage, then checked out a rattle in the gas tank. They found an unexploded 20-millimeter cannon round. It had pierced the rubber leading edge of the wing, then the self-sealing tank.
“We were protected,” Trommer said. “Whoever was the right God, one of us had it.”
Trommer was Jewish; Defabio, Catholic; and Hunt, Protestant.
“When I joined the Army Air Corps in October 1939, you were supposed to have a high school education,” said Hunt, a native of Jackson, Tenn. “Two-and-a-half years later it didn’t matter if you could read.”
Hunt retired from the Army in 1964 as a master sergeant, then repaired missiles at Letterkenny Army Depot for 14 years.
“The brutal part was there was no telling what we hit,” recalled Hunt, 77, a former light heavyweight boxer.
“We were working against big odds,” Amelang said.
Luck and human strength broke the odds:
- Hunt freed Simon “Animal Crackers” Arvanitakis from the ball turret on the belly of the B-24. “I was 25 years old and strong as a bull. I manhandled the turret and moved it so he could open the door.”
- Shot down while substituting with a rookie crew, Amelang was imprisoned for a year. A German prison guard nicknamed Popeye helped Amelang and other Allied prisoners on a forced march. Without food and cover, prisoners had to melt snow for water. Pop-eye pistol-whipped his superior officer, who was depriving the prisoners, and left him for dead. “He was a soldier first and a German second. He took care of us on that march.”
Popeye signed Amelang’s scrapbook two years ago during a POW reunion.
Ameland uses the words of another war buddy to explain his feelings a half century after the war: “I wouldn’t take a million dollars to do it again, but I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience to be gone.”
50 Years Ago
June 14, 1971 – Monday
“Chamber Golf Club Winners”
Pictured above are the winners and runners-up of the annual Member-Guest competition of the Chambersburg Golf Club which was played last weekend. From left are, Dick and Sam Butz, runners-up, Bob and Don Miller, winners, and club pro Bob Ocker.
100 Years Ago
June 14, 1921- Tuesday
“TO SEE STUNTS AT SCOTLAND SCHOOL”
Several hundred people enjoyed and marveled at the various drills at the Scotland School last month when Superintendent Signor staged the first community day. Another opportunity for the public to witness these interesting exercises will be given at 2 p. m., next Tuesday, when they will be repeated, as part of the regular commencement.
The baccalaureate sermon, by the Rev. Dr. O. A. McAlister, will be Sunday at 8 p. m. On Monday at 8 p. Bathe annual band concert will be given, with Mrs. Ai.-D. Haines as chorister. On Tuesday at 10 a.m. the graduation exercises will be held. One of the honorary orations Is by a Franklin county boy, Eal! Clayton Shoop, who speaks on “An ideal American.” Lieutenant Governor E. . E. Beidleman will make the address.
At 2 p. m. the campus exercises the spectator’s portion of all the exercises will be given, and at 8 p.m. the program closes with a declamation contest.
The public is Invited to all of the exercises.